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Schematic three dimensional cross section of a cell membrane. There are two major components of this dynamic, fluid, structure: lipids and proteins. A lipid bilayer provides the basic structure within which proteins are free to diffuse. Sugar moieties can be present as part of either proteins ( glycoproteins) or lipids ( glycolipids). A further important component shown is en:cholesterol; which intercalates between lipid molecules and affects membrane fluidity/stability.

Essential Biological Functions:

  • Immune response
  • Cell metabolism
  • Neurotransmission
  • Photosynthesis
  • Cell adherence
  • Cell growth and differentiation

Potential Commercial Applications

  • Drug response monitoring
  • Chemical manufacturing
  • Biosensing
  • Energy conversion
  • Tissue engineering

Source: NIST: These World Wide Web pages are provided as a public service by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). With the exception of material marked as copyrighted, information presented on these pages is considered public information and may be distributed or copied. Use of appropriate byline/photo/image credits is requested.

The drawing was made by Dana Burns, and can also be found in Scientific American, 1985, 253(4), pages 86-90, in the article The molecules of the cell membrane by M.S. Bretscher.

The copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permitted.

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